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This Week in Legacy: Freeze Tag!


Howdy folks! It's time yet again for another edition of This Week in Legacy! I'm your host, Joe Dyer, and this week we're going to be diving into the recent banning of the format's newest card, Underworld Breach! In addition, we'll be continuing our level up lessons by discussing the ins and outs of Legacy cantrips, from Ponder to Brainstorm! In addition, as always we're covering the Legacy Challenge from last weekend and of course, our Spice Corner.

Without further ado, let's dive right into the thick of things!

The Breach Effect

We had a major Banned and Restricted announcement this past Monday, and Legacy was a part of it. That's right... Underworld Breach is now banned in Legacy.

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For those of you are wondering, this is indeed one of the fastest bans to take place in the Legacy format (actually the second fastest ban in the format of all time), the fastest of which was actually the power level errata of the card Flash. Flash was legal for 0.9 months overall, seeing play in exactly one event (GP Columbus) and then was banned the week after. Our good friend Bob Huang posted a sheet showing some of the time lengths of Legacy bans (link) and of course the one question I've seen people asking is why? Why ban this card this quickly?

The answer from Wizards of the Coast is given in the reasoning in the ban announcement.

As noted, one of the big reasons that this card was removed from the format so quickly was indication of the rising win rates of the deck. The Jeskai Breach deck boasted some insane win rates, to a point where players like Anuraag Das were claiming 80% win rates as they continued to push the envelope of the deck's development. While the format was attempting to adapt, the overall metagame was skewing too far to try to overcorrect to beat the deck, and frankly the deck was still doing very well. I agree a lot with this decision. I spent a number of times last week playing around with the Jeskai Breach deck and found it to be excessively powerful and often required a massive piling of hate cards in order to actually beat it. Furthermore, sometimes those piling of hate cards wasn't enough when you had the option of playing a sideboard card like Monastery Mentor to sidestep the hate. Long term I believe this was a healthy ban for the format, as giving this card more time would only exacerbate how strong it truly is. I am generally an anti-ban and willing to wait and see kind of person, but after having more experience with this deck I do believe this was correct.

So... what happens now? This is the big question weighing on everyone's minds, as while Breach is leaving the format, there is still a bunch of other Theros: Beyond Death cards to care about in addition to the other 2019 cards seeing a lot of play.

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Thassa's Oracle is a powerful card that pairs well with Doomsday, however with Breach in the format the deck was getting pushed back out slightly after a small resurgence due to the power of being able to kill the Doomsday pilot with a lethal Brain Freeze at the right moment. I expect we'll see these decks pop up again in some capacity. I also expect to see The EPIC Storm return to a more prominent role in the format, thanks to the fact that Jeskai Breach was a very poor matchup for the deck. I don't expect many of the other combo decks to do poorly either, especially those that are graveyard centric as the format eases up on graveyard hate overall that was overcompensating for Breach's existence. In addition, decks like U/G Omni-Tell or even traditional Sneak and Show have a chance to be good again as the format attempts to readjust.

Furthermore, as always we should expect many of the midrange pile decks that were Blue/Green/X in nature for cards like Oko, Thief of Crowns and Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath to be popping up again. Uro especially is a very powerful card, and I would not be surprised to see it show up more and more going forward. Nothing really changes much in these decks thankfully, but Breach was definitely keeping them down in the format, so the return of these decks is not surprising at all. This means decks like 4C Miracles and Aggro-Loam. Furthemore even decks like Death and Taxes have a solid chance of being able to appropriately metagame again and this is only a good thing.

The biggest losers of this particular banning ends up being those decks wanting to cast Chalice of the Void not named Aggro-Loam. Things like Eldrazi, Post, etc. all lose a bit of equity (even though Eldrazi Stompy is likely the better version of the deck at this point on the basis of consistency) because of Breach being gone. In addition, this likely also hurts Shadow decks to an extent as far as competitiveness in the overall Meta game.

In addition, Delver variants, in general, lose a bit of equity since they also had a really decent matchup vs Breach decks (combination of soft countermagic plus a clock) that they become slightly punished by the more midrange type decks. However, I don't expect Delver to be truly held down as it is one of the more popular archetypes in the format with a lot of people, so I expect many players to continue to play variants of Delver for some time regardless of how they are in the format. In addition, those decks are good at keeping decks like Sneak/Show in check, so they will have a place in the format.

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As it will inevitably come up, the question of the other three cards that tend to come up in banlist discussion should be addressed. Arcum's Astrolabe, Oko, Thief of Crowns, and Veil of Summer have been at the forefront of a lot of ban discussion over the course of their existence in the format, and even so during this past week prior to the banlist announcement on Monday. In fact, I found that more people were discussing a banning of one of these three cards more than discussing the possibility of Underworld Breach being banned. I chalk this up to experience against the deck overall and the format in paper not really seeing the card a lot to drive these kinds of ban discussions. As far as these cards are concerned, I would really prefer to go back to the wait and see approach as to how they impact and interact with the format. Out of these, Veil of Summer is possibly the most egregious and I would not be upset at seeing it go due to the sheer power of the card.

Astrolabe and Oko on the other hand, I've had a bit more time to look at since my initial assumptions of what these cards would do to the format, and I currently don't feel these cards will be banned in Legacy any time soon. As we noted earlier this year prior to the printing of Theros: Beyond Death that it appeared that the Astrolabe decks weren't really doing what had been expected of the card, and that other decks were settling into the format well against the Snow Control decks. So I am willing to wait and see what will happen in the format going forward.

Level Up Lesson - Cantrip Soup for the Blue Player's Soul

Our Level Up Lesson this week is all about blue mages and the splash colors that love them, as we talk about the variety of the cantrip suite available in Legacy. These are the three primary spells that make up the "Cantrip Cartel" within the format: Ponder, Preordain, and Brainstorm. There are tons of great resources on the web about these cards, one of which is our good friend Brian Coval's resource Wizard's School (which is great and you should watch every video).

One of the major concepts to understand here as to why Cantrips are so important is the theory of Xerox. While the name sounds kind of amusing, the idea behind this theory states that for every four 1-2 CMC cantrips you play in a deck, you can reduce the number of lands in your deck by two. This theory came about by Pro player Alan Comer, a revolutionary player who would eventually go on to work for Wizards of the Coast. The name comes from the fact that many people liked his decklists so much, that they decided to copy them to play in events, thus earning the name Xerox. This rule is very important to determining whether or not you are going to be playing a deck with cantrips or if you are not going to have them at all.

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These three cards so some very different things, so it's a great idea to approach them individually and talk about what each one of these is capable of. So let's dive right in.

Ponder

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Outside of Brainstorm, Ponder is the other most played cantrip in the entire format. One of the big reasons behind this is because Ponder is very good at sculpting hands. What this means is that the card allows you to set up a specific line of draws to where you can sculpt your next one to two turns. This makes Ponder a really solid Turn 1 play. You can see three cards and determine what order you want them in, and then of course on your followup turn you can always fetch away the worst of those three.

Ponder is however, not so great at locating specific cards you are looking for, especially if you don't find it and need to shuffle your library first. This makes it awkward as the game goes longer to finding emergency button type cards, whereas in normal situations it can be used to resculpt and get back into the game. Fair decks like Miracles are often the best places for a card like this, as it is a great sculpting tool for those decks that are often a little slower and more on the fair side.

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Preordain

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Preordain on the other hand, is great for searching for specific cards. The combination of the Scry 2 and draw allows you to dig relatively deeply or to simply locate the card you needed for a given situation. Because of this, Preordain functions well in the mid to late games of a match, as you will often have a better understanding of what you are searching for. For this reason alone, you will not often see a lot of copies of this card in fair decks like Delver or Miracles. At most 2-3 copies of this card sees play in various Delver variants, such as U/R Delver. This is largely because of the existence of the card Dreadhorde Arcanist than anything else since flashing back Preordain is typically exceptionally powerful. However, this card is typically stronger in combo decks (such as Sneak and Show) like we discussed last week, because of its raw ability to locate whatever is needed at any given time.

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Brainstorm

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While on the surface, Brainstorm appears to be a relatively simple card, it is actually one of the more complex spells to properly resolve in the entirety of Legacy. The power level of Brainstorm is astronomical in the various contexts that the card exists in. One of the best and most classic resources on the subject of this card is the article "Pondering Brainstorm" by AJ Sacher. This is worth a read because no matter how old this article is, the fundamental knowledge from this article is still massively important to format knowledge.

Brainstorm's power level mainly comes from the existence of fetch lands in the format, since the combination of the two allows you to put back your worst cards and shuffle them away. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg for this card. One of the other ways you can use this card is defensively, by floating key cards to the top of your library. This can help protect you from a discard spell to keep your best card on top so that you draw it the next turn. It can also be used to locate countermagic if need be.

One of the big takeaways from this and AJ Sacher's article, however, is that the best Brainstorm is the one you didn't have to cast. The important logic here to remember is that you shouldn't always be firing off a Brainstorm unless there is a specific reasoning to be doing so. This is a very common mistake to make when you are first getting into Legacy and playing with the card. It can feel important to fire off a Brainstorm because of what the card is capable of, but consider as always the option of what the game would look like if you waited. It is important to develop this skill within the format to understand when and where you need to cast this card. The aforementioned article above does a great job of laying out situations where you might want to hold off on casting Brainstorm and when you should do so.

There is one additional common interaction with this card that is worth discussing and that is with the card Delver of Secrets.

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One thing you can do with Brainstorm and Delver is to ensure that your Delver flips by casting Brainstorm in response to the trigger. Now, there are some very relevant reasons to do this and to not do this in a matchup. It might seem like this is a smart play to always make, but it actually isn't. Delver decks are generally constructed in such a way that blind flipping a Delver happens very often (30 instants/sorceries in the deck for this very reason), however there are some matchups where you simply cannot afford to take the chance to flip it. These often tend to be combo matchups and fast decks like Dark Depths decks, where you need to flip your Delver early and start presenting a clock on your opponent's life total. However, if you're not in one of those matchups, hold the Brainstorm and see if the Delver just flips on its own.

Cantrip for Fun and Profit

These cantrips are important to understand in order to play Legacy as a format, and one of the other ways you can learn this is to watch other players cast these cards and talk about their decision making processes in casting them. This can help you understand learning how to play them and eventually level up your play.

Community Legacy Update

A firm reminder to always submit and check for events on Bolt the Bird! This resource is invaluable in helping the community find and advertise Legacy events!

In addition, community madman Jeremy Aaronson is at it again, with a post on Twitter indicating an announcement on 3/23 about a genuine 100K Legacy event. That's right, a $100,000 prize pool event. You can see his post here.

As always, if there's an event you'd like me to cover or anything you want me to talk about event-wise, please reach out to me! I love working with TOs to provide coverage for community events.

Deck Focus - The Shadow Knows!

One of the many variants of the Delver archetype, Death's Shadow came about in Legacy as an after effect of the popularity of the card and archetype in the Modern format, showing that this kind of deck was viable in Legacy as well. The deck received a measure of limelight at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary, due to being played and promoted by the Pro players in that event.

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As a Delver archetype, Shadow borrows from the same concepts that govern all Delver archetypes. Establish a fast clock with Daze/Force of Will to protect it and back it up with Wasteland. What makes Shadow interesting in this archetype is that it provides the deck a very powerful clock outside of Delver with the eponymous card Death's Shadow in addition to Delve threat Gurmag Angler.

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Because of the additions of these threats, this deck is more heavy typically on black and blue, where occasionally you can see light splashes of other colors for either red (for Pyroblast effects) or green (for things like Abrupt Decay or Veil of Summer). One of the things however that makes this deck so interesting from a play perspective is the ability for this deck to be a Daze deck that also actively wants to play Watery Grave.

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This is one of the things that makes Shadow as an archetype so appealing is the likelihood of players coming from Modern to already have most of the manabase cards outside of any Underground Sea, and what is interesting is that it is possible to build this deck's manabase without any true duals at all and run only on a playset of Watery Grave. While the percentage points you might lose doing this is pretty low, this is something that can allow you to play the deck in a local perspective until you could acquire enough credit/trade fodder to work into at least one Underground Sea. This puts the deck in a position where the major cards needed to play it are Force of Will and Wasteland, which aren't cheap but aren't crazy expensive either.

As is the case with most decks in the format, 2019 had a small effect on some of the cards played in this archetype, primarily the inclusions of Drown in the Loch and Brazen Borrower. These cards provided the deck some great ways of being able to diversify answers to various problem permanents, most notably the card Chalice of the Void, which has a severe negative effect on the Shadow archetype. Cards like Brazen Borrower allow the deck to have a main deck interaction spell with these kind of cards which is very powerful given that it is also stapled to a 3/1 flier.

Legacy Challenge 3/8

The Legacy Challenge over the weekend was an interesting one given that it is now a pre-Ban environment, but let's still take a look at the Top 8 of the event to see how it looked.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
GW Maverick 1st IslandsAreStillRad
RUGb Delver 2nd SilviaWataru
Turbo Depths 3rd EronRelentless
Jeskai Breach 4th Jtl005
Jeskai Breach 5th Sharkcaster_Mage
RUG Delver 6th WakaRock
Jeskai Breach 7th ZioFrancone
White Eldrazi 8th Mei0024

Since we know that this is a pre-Ban environment, it was not surprising to see three Jeskai Breach in the Top 8. Since these decks are now pre-Ban, we will not be covering these lists at all. Let's take a look instead at the Top 3 of the event, starting with the winner IslandsAreStillRad on GW Maverick!

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This list is pretty cool, and does definitely show the lengths at which this deck went to combat a deck like Breach with multiple copies of Deafening Silence in the sideboard. However, it's great to see cards like Hexdrinker and Questing Beast here. Also really enjoy the Gideon, Ally of Zendikar in the main deck. Congrats to IslandsAreStillRad (and they are still rad) on their finish!

In Second Place was none other than RUGb Delver!

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The minor splash of black here is mainly for discard spells like Thoughtseize, again another intriguing effect of Breach on the overall metagame. It's certainly interesting to see this list however, as it just points out the sheer power of cards like Dreadhorde Arcanist.

In Third Place we had EronRelentless on Golgari Turbo Depths!

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This is pretty much what I expected to see out of this list, and it's still pretty cool. I expect this deck really just flew under the radar and the fact that people were over prepped for a deck like Breach really contributed to its success. Still super cool to see this strategy doing well.

At the bottom of the Top 8 was Mei0024 with White Eldrazi!

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This list is super clean and pretty cool and definitely seems pretty powerful. I especially love the quad Armageddon in the sideboard.

All in all, this seemed like an interesting event even though it was pre-Ban. However, I still want to look at the statistics of how many 2020 cards were in this event, as sort of a final hurrah to Underworld Breach.

Card Name Number of Copies
Underworld Breach 44
Dryad of the Ilysian Grove 3

As part of our final check on this card, at 44 copies means there were 11 pilots out of the Top 32 in this Challenge. Six of those pilots made it into the Top 16, while three of those six made it into the Top 8. It was very interesting to accrue this data on Breach while it was legal, and to me this helped solidify my understanding and position on the card being banned. Either way, it was fun while it lasted Underworld Breach!

Around the Web

  • Our friends at Eternal Glory posted their first episode under the new cast and it was all about Underworld Breach! Check it out here. While this is Pre-Ban, it's a good look into the minds of what players felt about the card.
  • Everyday Eternal had our friend Callum Smith on the cast to talk about his Legacy Challenge win on the Breach deck as well as a whole segment on Pre-Innistrad Legacy! Check that out here!
  • Our good friend James Hsu of Cardboard Live posted a really cool coaching video with Legacy Champ Hans Jacob Goddik over on ItsJulian.com. Really sweet content, so check it out here!
  • The entirety of the coverage for the Dice City Games Revised Legacy Open that we covered a few weeks back is now available on YouTube, courtesy of the guys of the Legacy Pit. Check that out here!

The Spice Corner

First up this week is yet another spicy Paradigm Shift + Thought Lash deck, this one running green for Living Wish and Veil of Summer!

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It's a great day when I see Meathooks (aka Slivers) posting a 5-0!

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This next deck is pretty sweet. A mixture of Reanimator and Depths, it also plays FOUR Rotting Regisaur and even a Gishath, Sun's Avatar!

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You want a CHEAP Legacy deck? Look no further than PROWESS BURN!

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What I'm Playing This Week

I was able to get back out to my local paper FNM bi-weekly Legacy this past Friday. Again, we took out BUG Zenith Oko. I had access to one Trinisphere this week, so I ran a Flusterstorm in the spot of the second one.

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My record this week was not as fantastic, but was filled with very interesting and some cool critical thinking games. I ended 2-2 for the night with a bye, as there were 9 of us in attendance. My matches were:

  • Round 1 (WIN) vs Scott Campbell (@MTGPackFoils) on Burn (2-1)
  • Round 2 (LOSS) vs Ben Michael on Stryfo Pile (1-2)
  • Round 3 (LOSS) vs Graeme Roberts on 4C Delver (1-2)
  • Round 4 (BYE)

There was some definitely interesting games this evening and a lot of learning opportunity. I have a post up on Patreon detailing the event in more detail over here!

Wrapping Up

That's all the time we have this week! I would like to thank you folks for all your continued support of my article series. You folks are all fantastic!

As always you can reach me on Twitter, Twitch, YouTube, and Patreon! In addition, I am always around the MTGGoldfish Discord Server and the /r/MTGLegacy Discord Server and Subreddit.

Until next time, keep on Breaching!


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